DAME’s Friendkeeper helps a woman keep the peace over opinions of Gaza and tells another how to handle her pal’s badly behaved children.
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I met one of my closest friends in college, when we were activists fighting against the war in Central America, marching for reproductive rights, for LGBT rights—everything. There has been no human-rights issue we haven’t seen eye to eye on. Until now: Gaza. Now, I know, after more than 20 years, we’d inevitably disagree on something, it’s only natural. But this is kind of a big one for us both. In the past, we’ve agreed not to talk about it because we both understand why we disagree on the subject: I was born into a family of Zionists—and while I’m feeling a bit disillusioned at the moment, half of my family is in Israel, so my loyalties are with family. Without getting into the politics, she feels quite the opposite. But we’ve always been mutually respectful because we love the shit out of each other. Except now that the stakes are higher than ever, and though I don’t disagree with some of what she has to say, she’s of the mind, “You’re either with me or against me.” And I think it’s a little more complicated than that. But I would just rather keep to our original agreement, which is to keep this conversation out of our friendship. I’ve even hidden her posts on Facebook. In general, I refuse to start, or even engage in dialogues on the subject of Gaza on Facebook because I’ve seen how quickly conversations derail friendships—virtual and real—on threads. She and I have too much history between us to let our differences in opinion explode our friendship. But she’s insisting that I take a stand. Bet the whole farm. I know she’s in the thick of it, but my feeling is, if a ceasefire sticks, does she really want our friendship to be a casualty? How do I say this without sounding like a coward? Without sounding like I don’t have the courage of my convictions? Neither of us works in the political realm, but we’re both hot-heads, and we both feel things strongly and put our money where our mouths are. I just am very protective of us. And I don’t ever want to lose that over a political disagreement.
Dear Hopeful Peacekeeper,
My heart aches for the world these days. The bad-news hits just keep coming—global, local, not to mention the personal things happening to the people we know that don’t make it to the news.
And there are a lot of politics in a lot of things that are happening and some of it feels clear—no one I’m friends with thinks people should be carrying guns into Target, or unarmed teenagers should be shot—but a lot of other issues are less black and white. You are not a coward. There is nothing in this for people who feel fairly strong about their convictions to debate them with other people who feel fairly strong in their convictions. No one is going to win, in fact, you’ll both probably lose. The other day one of my Facebook friends posted an article about Gaza with a, “Hmm, interesting” and I went on to read it. It was completely slanted and offended me. I started to respond in the comments, writing, re-writing, and ultimately leaving the page without posting. Bottom line is you and your friend don’t need to agree on these things, it’s not like you’ll be having children together (although I must go back to James Carville and Mary Matalin who do in fact have children and I just have no answers for that). As always, we need to find the common ground with the friends we plan to keep. If you don’t agree on politics or religion talk about stuff you do agree on—heirloom tomatoes, the smell of garbage, strange yoga-posing celebrity Instagrammers. If she tries to force you into a stance, tell her that her friendship is more important to you. And good for you for having that perspective.
What do you do when a good friend’s kids are freaking terrors? My pal, let’s call her Tracy, has two little munchkins, ages three and six. When they were babies, they were adorable. All they did was blink and eat and poop and cry every once in awhile. Sometime between now and then, they turned into miniature people who have more in common with Tasmanian devils or animate wrecking balls than they do normal, relatively well-behaved children. And Tracy does nothing to keep them in line. She’ll come over to my house, kids in tow, and will laugh, fecklessly reprimand, or outright ignore them as they terrorize my dogs, upend furniture, empty my bookshelves, and otherwise cause a ruckus. But what’s worse, if I try to stop their madness, Tracy gives me the total side-eye and acts like I’m overstepping my bounds. Which, truthfully, maybe I am. But only because she leaves me no choice! I don’t want to stop hanging out with her, but I can’t take one more maelstrom of an afternoon with her offspring. What are my options?
The Kids Aren’t Alright
Okay, this is a no brainer. The kids can’t go to your house. Your friend is putting you in an awful position, though I’m sure she’s not aware of it. And it doesn’t sound like you want to spend a lot of time with them at their house either, but if that’s the option at least it’s not your stuff getting wrecked and your dogs being terrorized—which is not okay. I’m not going to get into any parenting judgments here because we don’t have all day, the one thing I’ll say is that just because they’re terrors now doesn’t mean they always will be. (Unless you’re Louis C.K. and they are Jizanthapusses—in which case you can enjoy watching them grow into illiterate ditch diggers.) In all seriousness, I think the worst thing a parent can do is make their kids unwelcome guests. Okay maybe the worst thing they can do is sell their kids to buy crack, but this is second. Mainly because the kids feel the hate coming from the adults and it’s not a good thing for anyone. But at the moment you need to take a step back and try and see your friend without the kids so you don’t start hating her, too.
Got a platonic problem of your own that could use the Friendkeeper’s advice? Fire away: [email protected]. No situation is too uncomfortable or too small and all details are kept confidential.
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